Preview: Otomo Yoshihide and Sachiko M

London fans of minimal electronic music will find themselves spending much of this week in Dalston, as Cafe Oto hosts a three-day residency featuring two of Japan’s preeminent improvisers. Each night, Otomo Yoshihide and Sachiko M will play with a different experimental luminary and as well as collaborate with each other in what is easily one of 2009’s most exciting series so far.

Equally skilled on both turntables and guitar, Yoshihide draws as much on cut-up sound technique as free jazz, while Sachiko M’s work centres on the most basic building block of synthesized sound, the sine wave generator. I recently listened to her Sine Wave Solo CD from 2000 and was shocked by how alien it still sounds nine years later. Whereas most experimental electronic music from the turn of the century sounds dated with too much garish glitch, Sine Wave Solo sounds positively fresh and timeless. If you’re hoping to hear her undiluted sound, Monday night is her only solo set, so don’t miss it!

The special guest each night will undoubtedly influence the direction the performers take. While Otomo Yoshihide will probably explore the jazzier side of his guitar with Evan Parker in the spotlight on Wednesday, I can’t imagine he’d miss the opportunity to hop behind the decks and spin alongside Technics virtuoso Christian Marclay on Tuesday. I’ve seen Marclay and Yoshihide collaborate once before, each manning their own set of turntables, and it’s nothing short of amazing.

With the stunning set of sounds Marclay and Yoshihide can extract from the much abused vinyl in their crates, augmented by Sachiko’s sine waves, if I had to pick one event to see, it would be Tuesday’s trio. Since each gig only costs £10, and a three-day pass can be had for £22, choosing just one seems a bit silly, really. It’s not every day you get some of the finest noisemakers in the world together in one place for the better part of a week, so arguably you have a moral obligation to attend at least two of these stellar gigs.

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If you’re not sold yet, here’s a small sample of the sort of sounds you can hope to hear this week. It’s the first track from Sachiko M’s Sine Wave Solo, “Don’t Move”. Not only is it one of my favourite pieces of hers, but it’s among my most loved works of experimental electronic music in general. It’s a proper mental palette cleanser, a bit like giving your brain an acid bath so it comes out all shiny and new again.

Right-click here to download or stream below:

[audio:SachikoM-DontMove.mp3|titles=Don’t Move|artists=Sachiko M]

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Full schedule:

Monday, 9 March 2009 at 8pm
Otomo Yoshihide – Solo
Sachiko M – Solo
Otomo Yoshihide, Sachiko M and Eddie Prévost (AMM) – Trio

Tuesday, 10 March 2009 at 8pm
Filament: Otomo Yoshihide and Sachiko M
Otomo Yoshihide, Sachiko M and Christian Marclay – Trio

Wednesday, 11 March 2009 at 8pm
Otomo Yoshihide and John Butcher – Duo
Otomo Yoshihide, Sachiko M, Evan Parker, John Edwards and Tony Marsh – Quintet

Vote For My Photo Contest Entry

It’s no secret that I love contests. I enter all sorts of them. The obsession began when, at nine years old, I realised that just like LL Cool J, I couldn’t live without my radio. Anytime B96 announced they were giving shit away, my fingers were on the buttons: 5-9-1… oh hell yes, I’m the ninth caller! I won a fair amount of prizes that year, and with positive reinforcement being especially effective at that tender age, I sealed my fate as a contest geek for life.

In the past few years, photography has become one of my main hobbies, but only recently have I started submitting my snaps to photo competitions. I entered the following picture in last month’s EcoTrotters contest and I received word today that they’ve chosen it as a finalist.

Lamanai River

From now until the end of March you can vote for me to win. You’ll have to register as a user on their site, but that’s fast, free and easy. Once you’ve got that sorted, you can go directly to my photo page and click the little thumbs-up icon to vote. Thanks in advance!

The Great Barrier Reef

Almost as soon as Tourism Queensland announced their competition for The Best Job In The World, it became a meme. How could it not when they set it up so perfectly? Create a one minute video of yourself explaining why you should be the caretaker of the islands of the Great Barrier Reef, upload it to them and cross your fingers with hopes for the best. Within days, news of the contest spread across mainstream media outlets and blogs alike and soon thousands of videos poured in.

Never one to ignore a powerful meme, my lovely wife Rin knew she had to step up to this challenge. Since three memes are always better than one, she found inspiration in the recent rash of covers of Britney Spears’ “Womanizer” as well as VH1’s Pop-Up Videos programme to bring you this:

Please visit Rin’s page on the competition’s official site and give her 5 stars if you’d like to help ship us off to Australia. Also, in case you were wondering, I am accepting freelance work as a professional hand model (see 0:22 in the above video), so if you’re trying to move some soap or Casio watches, do be in touch.

Mix-Up

Ever since I first encountered scratch and sniff stickers as a kid, I was obsessed with sensory crossovers. If you could scratch a sticker to produce a scent, certainly you should be able to turn a photograph into a song or taste colours. Whilst I’ve only been able to accomplish the latter under the influence of at least a ten strip, there are loads of software options for mixing up sight and sound.

The latest entry in the synesthetic toolbox is Voice Draw, a fun little Flash application from Ze Frank. After accessing your computer’s microphone, it acts as an audio-controlled Etch-a-Sketch, using volume to determine whether it will change direction or continue drawing on its present course. With volume as the decisive factor, it’s less important what you say than it is how you say it. In order to draw anything specific, you’re probably going to have to go with gutteral proto-lingual tones.

When I discovered it yesterday morning, I immediately wanted to try it out. Since Rin was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake her with my best attempts at throat singing, I decided to feed it some pre-recorded sound from my speakers. The first mp3 I stumbled upon was The Kinks’ classic, “Lola”, which produced a rather pleasing horizontal squiggle when played at a medium volume:

Voice Drawing with LolaThis was nice and all, but I wanted to give it something slightly more sinister. Waking Rin up to the sounds of Throbbing Gristle didn’t seem wise either, so in the dulcet tones of William S. Burroughs I found a reasonable compromise. I recently picked up a 3 CD collection of his audio cut-up work entitled Real English Tea Made Here, and two pieces from the first disc, “Cut-ins with Dutch Schultz” and “23 Skidoo”, gave me this:

Voice Drawing with William S. Burroughs

“Cut-ins with Dutch Schultz” created the dark explosion in the upper-right, whilst “23 Skidoo” produced the spiral crash which makes up the majority of the image. I couldn’t believe how well the picture suited the sound and I’m eager to see what else I can make with it.

One of the commenters on Ze’s post left the program running for 24 hours in his flat just to see what the ambient noise of one day looked like. It was small but dense, which kinda made sense to me.

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William S. Burroughs – “23 Skidoo”: [audio:burroughs-23skidoo.mp3|titles=23 Skidoo|artists=William S. Burroughs]

Setting Things On Fire

When travelling, a fantastic experience can be had by doing something that would be incredibly mundane at home: going to the supermarket. Despite the age of globalisation that we currently live in, some products never make it very far out of their homeland (sometimes for good reason, too). On a recent trip to Austria, Rin and I stopped in a Salzburg supermarket and, of course, ended up in the booze aisle. It was there that we first saw Baumann’s Gletscher-Eis in all its glory.

Blue and toxic-looking, Gletscher-Eis stands tall.

Blue and toxic-looking, Gletscher-Eis stands tall

Along with a few other assorted miniature bottles of schnapps, we bought big blue as a souvenir of our time in the land of Mozart and singing nuns. How could we resist a spirit containing 50% alcohol by volume which required three minutes spent burning before it became drinkable? When we arrived home from our trip, we promptly found a nice spot for it on the shelf where it could collect dust until we mustered the courage to set it on fire and kick it back.

A few days ago courage came in the form of several glasses of Jameson, so Rin grabbed the video camera and filmed my first true encounter with this formidable Austrian bastard. Please excuse the South Park pyjamas, for the degree to which I was chilling precluded the wearing of proper trousers.

I have at least 75% of the bottle left and, not one to waste intoxicating substances, I’m sure I’ll give it another chance. For take two, I’ll follow the instructions more closely and give it a minimum of 3 minutes’ worth of burn time. I’ll also sip it through a straw since burnt lips aren’t very nice.

You can learn a lot of things about a country by visiting one of its supermarkets. For example, it wasn’t until I first came to Britain that I learned tea could come in boxes of 500 or more bags, or that one needed a choice between 30 different types of marmalade. On a recent trip to Belgium, I was surprised to find that it was cheaper to buy a bottle of Chimay than a Diet Coke. Sadly, I went with the Diet Coke, because whilst drinking on the street is legal in the UK, I wasn’t sure if that was the same case there. I may like foreign supermarkets, but I’m still too much of a pussy to start exploring foreign jails. Maybe I just need another bottle of Jameson.

Nintendo DS World Record Attempt

Me playing my old skool brick DS

Me playing my old skool brick DS

Anyone who knows me knows that in addition to music and photography, I love video games. Since becoming an international man of mystery (read: moving into a tiny flat in London without a telly or any home video game consoles), that love has been devoted primarily to the Nintendo DS. Within weeks of moving here two years ago, I stumbled upon a great group of social gamers that call themselves DS:London. Every few weeks they meet in a pub to drink and game using the portable console’s wifi capabilities. Through their meetups I found not only a fantastic way to build up my Bomberman skills, but also a lovely bunch of mates.

On Saturday 25 October 2008, DS:London will take on a challenge greater than the combined fury of Bowser, Ganon and a rather cross Princess Peach. To celebrate the London Games Festival 2008, these Nintendo maniacs will try for the Guinness World Record for the most people playing DS simultaneously in one room. They’re hoping to pack more than 500 people into London Metropolitan University’s Rocket Centre from 4–5 p.m., so come along and join in if you want to make gaming history. While the event is free, voluntary donations to Children In Need will be accepted and are encouraged.

Careless

Working in Soho, I’m lucky enough to have loads more lunch options than I had working near Tower Bridge. Granted, most of these involve fried eggs and bacon, but you don’t see me complaining. In an attempt to play a healthier hand today, however, I thought I’d try the excellent and wildly popular Jumbo Eats on Brewer Street. As usual, the queue was formidable but, living in England, I pretend to like queues, so I waited.

Music blared from inside and, after about thirty seconds of waiting, my brain pieced together what I was hearing: a horrible dance remix of Wham!’s “Careless Whispers”. I couldn’t even type that last sentence without furrowing my brow in disapproval. The bulk of my mp3 collection consists of sounds most breathing creatures would kindly describe as unlistenable, but a naff disco turn at Wham! brought me to my knees. Surely no wrap made under the influence of Wham! would be fit for human consumption. I wouldn’t even buy cat food made with solo George Michael in the background.

I fled from the horrible saxophone to my familiar cafe around the corner for a trusted parma ham panini. I let Wham! get the better of me. I let Wham! win. The panini, however, was really nice.

Massive Attack’s Meltdown 2008 at Southbank Centre

Daevid Allen

As most of you probably know, I don’t post here as often as I once did because these days I’m generally quite busy devoting most of my writing efforts to Londonist. Southbank Centre’s annual Meltdown festival is my busiest week of music writing for the whole year and the one that just ended was the most active I’ve ever seen.

Thanks to the support of the lovely press team at Southbank Centre, I was fortunate enough to attend four events this time around with a photo pass for each one. I reviewed all of them for Londonist and published my photos on Flickr. Here’s the links to those reviews along with a selection of my favourite snaps. If you missed out on Meltdown this year, you missed a great one, but I’m sure 2009 will be even better. Enjoy!

Gong: www.londonist.com/2008/06/gong_meltdown.php

Yellow Magic Orchestra: www.londonist.com/2008/06/yellow_magic_orchestra.php

The Dubstep Chronicles: www.londonist.com/2008/06/londonist_live_the_dubstep_chro…

Stiff Little Fingers / Mark Stewart and the Maffia / Adrian Sherwood: www.londonist.com/2008/06/londonist_live_stiff_little_fingers…

Ryuichi Sakamoto

The Spaceape

Stiff Little Fingers

Thief Of Fire

You Gotta Know When To Hold ‘Em

One of the greatest things about living in Britain is that I can walk down the street openly drinking a beer and I can legally bet on whatever the fuck I want. A few minutes ago Rin and I went down to Paddy Power on Camden High Street and placed our Eurovision 2008 bets as follows:

  1. Spain: £5 (£2.50 to win at 40:1 odds / £2.50 to place in the top four at 10:1 odds)
  2. France: £5 (£2.50 to win at 50:1 odds / £2.50 to place in the top four at 12.5:1 odds)
  3. Finland: £5 (£2.50 to win at 12:1 odds / £2.50 to place in the top four at 3:1 odds)

Personally, I absolutely adore the Sébastien Tellier song and would love for it to win, though on the other hand I can’t stop dancing El Robocop thanks to Rodolfo Chikilicuatre. Finland earned my bet not only because their entry brings back fond memories of 2006’s Lordi victory, but also because I wanted a remote chance of winning a tiny bit back.

I’ll leave you with videos of what we gambled on, including one we didn’t simply because it has an angel, a devil and lots of fire. Time to watch the Eurovision final!

Spain – Rodolfo Chikilicuatre – “Baila El Chiki Chiki”

France – Sébastien Tellier – “Divine”

Finland – Teräsbetoni – “Missä Miehet Ratsastaa”

Azerbaijan – Elnur and Samir – “Day After Day”

The Village Green Decimation Society

Last Sunday was so dreary and grey that it seemed as good a day as any to break the DJ silence and record my first new mix in years. I wasn’t sure what really would come out when I started, but after all was faded and sliced, I think I picked up right where I left off.

With a newfound love of black metal and a continued affection for minimal drone, I’m happy to present you with almost 35 minutes of the sometimes electronic, always psychedelic, Village Green Decimation Society (right-click link to download or stream in the player below).

[audio:theVillageGreenDecimationSociety.mp3]

Track listing:

Burzum – Spell Of Destruction
ABBA – Arrival
Eric Copeland – Scraps
Eyeless In Gaza – Avenue With Trees
Luboš Fišer – The Sermon
Luboš Fišer – The Visit
Skip Spence – Weighted Down (The Prison Song)
Sewer Election – White Golgotha
Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words – Heaven Is The Notion That All This Will End
Steve Bradley – Forces In 2 Dimension
Skull Defekts – Acid Animal
Stephen O’Malley & Z’ev – 14m 10s From 1m From 22s – 1m 22s – 28 Track Submix